Tadej Pogacar claims second straight Tour de France title

By Elian Peltier

Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia won his second straight Tour de France on Sunday, entering a new era of dominance after reigning over his adversaries for nearly two weeks and leaving little room for any serious competition.

The race’s outcome had been known for days, and Pogacar, 22, entered the traditionally celebratory final stage with an unassailable lead of 5 minutes, 20 seconds, a margin he maintained as he crossed the finish line. Even after Pogacar’s eighth-place finish in the time trial Saturday, fans of the Tour were left with the overwhelming impression that there was limited competition for the young champion.

In fact, Pogacar would step onto the podium in Paris three times Sunday, donning the yellow jersey for the general classification winner, the polka-dot jersey awarded to the Tour’s top climber and the white one awarded to its best young rider. He won the same three jerseys last year when he became the Tour’s youngest winner in the post-World War II era.

In a sport where superlative performances are routinely shadowed by suspicions of cheating — a rival team’s bus and hotel were searched by French police Wednesday as part of a doping investigation — Pogacar has been hailed as a machine, a tornado, a champion who might leave his mark on the Tour’s history as past champions such as Bernard Hinault and Eddy Merckx have done. Merckx, 76, said last week that Pogacar was on his way to at least five Tour de France titles; others have said the race has entered “the Pogacar era.”

Perhaps more impressively, Pogacar, racing for UAE Team Emirates, defeated, almost entirely on his own, a team that had ruled the Tour for the past decade: Ineos Grenadiers, formerly known as Team Sky. By the end of the race’s first 10 days, he had also left behind his most serious challenger, Primoz Roglic, who finished second last year but abandoned the race this year after a fall in the first week.

Pogacar had won three stages entering Sunday, but his superiority has been unquestioned. Over the past three weeks, he dominated his rivals in a time trial in western France and knocked out challengers in the harrowing climbs of the Alps. Then, in the scenic landscapes of the Pyrenees this past week, he claimed two impressive victories that drew admiration — and raised eyebrows — for the ease with which he dispatched two of the race’s top contenders, toying with them during the final miles of a daunting ascent.

“Is it a game for you?” a journalist asked Pogacar on Thursday after he completed the 18th stage at the top of Luz Ardiden ski resort, where he had left behind his two most serious adversaries, Richard Carapaz and Jonas Vingegaard, with only a few powerful strides.

“Yes, of course,” Pogacar replied with a grin. “I enjoy playing it.”

Vingegaard of Denmark, and Team Jumbo-Visma, finished second overall — 1 minute, 43 seconds ahead of Carapaz of Ineos. No other rider was within 10 minutes of Pogacar.

For Pogacar, the game started June 30, when he won a first individual time trial in the fifth stage. Three days later, the peloton was in the Alps, and Pogacar was already winning the game, ripping through his adversaries on Stage 8 and grabbing the yellow jersey. He never gave it up.

That day, he said he had told his teammates that they should “try to break the race.” And break the race he did: Pogacar’s lead of 1 minute, 48 seconds at the end of the eighth stage had grown to more than 5 minutes by the time the race hit southern France four days later.

Although Pogacar argued that the race was not over, many knew then how it would end.

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